HC Deb 24 March 1848 vol 97 cc971-1004

regretted that he could not assent to the wish of the noble Lord, because the Motion he intended to propose had reference to a most wasteful expenditure of public money, which, in his opinion, ought to be considered before any further supplies were granted. The time had arrived when it was necessary to dispel the delusion that had prevailed with regard to the slave trade. When the naked truth should be revealed, it would become apparent, that all the blood and treasure which for so many years past had been expended for the purpose of suppressing the slave trade had been poured forth in vain—that all our efforts had not only failed in attaining the object this country had in view, but had actually increased the slave trade, and added tenfold to its cruelties and horrors. If those facts could be clearly and distinctly proved, then it would be most criminal to persevere in a course that was attended with such melancholy and fatal results. The most competent naval authorities had repeatedly declared that the whole Navy of England would not be sufficient to maintain an effective blockade upon a coast of 6,000 miles in extent. In 1845 the House had been informed that new and important measures were about to be adopted, from which the Government anticipated the most successful results. But at the very time that communication had been made, the Government had actually surrendered to the Government of France those treaties for the mutual right of search, by which alone the utility of our squadron could be tested, and by which alone the object could be effected for which those treaties had been made. At the time of the late Government coming into office, they had found difficult and delicate questions pending both with France and the United States; questions that were calculated to interrupt our friendly relations with both those Powers. Amongst these was the question of mutual right of search, concerning which both the people of France and of the United States were peculiarly sensitive. It was true the late Government had settled those questions, and peace had been preserved. But how? By giving up the main point at issue. It might have been wise to take that course; but the point of mutual right of search was, at all events, wholly given up, and it was not just that the people of England shold be held responsible for maintaining, at a vast expense, a squadron on the coast of Africa, after that squadron had been deprived of those powers by the exercise of which alone it could effect the object for which it was afloat. The measure of Her Majesty's Ministers, as he should be prepared to prove, had, to a great extent, augmented the slave trade; and Sir Fowell Buxton remarked, that not only had our efforts to put it down cost fifteen millions, but that the numbers exported had increased, while the loss of life had risen to 25 per cent. Ten years had elapsed since Sir Fowell Buxton's celebrated work was published, and in the interval the annual expenditure had increased from 1,000,000l. to 1,200,000l. He (Mr. Baillie) estimated the aggregate expenditure by this country in its efforts to suppress the slave trade, as follows:—

Expenditure from 1808 to 1847 £29,752,271
Bounties upon captured negroes, civil establishments, &c. 153,434
Compensation for emancipation 20,000,000
Making a total of £49,905,705
To this sum there must be added the extra price which the people of this country had been compelled to pay for sugar and rum in consequence of the Emancipation Act of 1835. On sugar he estimated the difference at 10s. per cwt., which on 46,810,994 cwt., imported from 1835 to 1845 inclusive, would amount to 23,137,122l. The enhanced price of molasses and rum within the same period he reckoned at one-third that of sugar, or 7,712,371l.; and for the half of the year 1846, he took it at 1,631,832l. Therefore, the sum thus paid by the public in increased prices was 32,481,325l., which added to the direct cost of 49,905,705l., made an aggregate which this country had had to pay for an experiment which had entirely failed, of 82,387,030l. This statement, founded on facts, he conceived, was an ample justification on his part for interfering with the Committee of Supply. As regarded the rate of mortality in slave vessels, Sir Fowell Buxton had estimated it at 25 per cent; but according to the authorities at Sierra Leone it averaged 33 per cent, whilst the slave merchants at Havannah calculated it at 331–3 per cent. Previous to 1807, when the trade was free, the mortality was only 8¾ per cent. Could the House, he would ask, persist in pursuing a system which had produced such deplorable results in deference to a misguided and mistaken philanthropy? He would now come to the great impulse which had been given to the slave trade since 1846, in consequence of the measures of Her Majesty's Government in reducing the duties on the produce of Cuba and Brazil. But he would first enable the House to form an opinion as to the possibility under any circumstances of putting down the slave trade, by giving it some idea of the enormous profits obtained by those who carried on that traffic. [The hon. Gentleman read an extract from a Sierra Leone newspaper, of November 10, 1846, which detailed the capture of a brigantine of only 74 tons burthen, having on board 547 slaves, all stowed away in the smallest possible space, and in the most wretched condition conceivable, and stated that the captain of this vessel was to receive 30 dollars a head as freight for the negroes; and allowing that the average of one-third of the cargo perished on the passage, if he succeeded in evading the cruisers, his freight would amount to no less than 4,637l. 10s. 6d. on a twenty-six days' passage. And the importer of this cargo of human beings would only have to pay at the rate of 4l. per head for the negroes at the place of shipment, while the average price a slave fetched in the Brazilian market was 50l., which, making every reasonable deduction for the other expenses, in addition to freight, left a profit of 200 per cent to the slave merchant.] This statement fully corroborated the calculations and assertions on this subject of Sir P. Buxton, who said it was an axiom at the Custom-house, that no illicit traffic yielding a profit exceeding 30 per cent could be suppressed; and he could prove that the slave trade yielded five times that amount of profit. He had in his hand an official despatch from Havannah, stating that a slaver called the Venus had brought a cargo of 1,000 negroes there, by which the speculator in human flesh would realise a clear return of from 100,000 to 200,000 dollars. The despatch concluded with these words:— Would any man who knows the state of Cuba pretend that this is not enough to shut the mouth of the informer, arrest the arm of the police, blind the eyes of the magistrates, and open the doors of the prison? And the evidence of Don José Cliffe, which was presented to the House only the other day, went to show that the profits accruing upon the slave trade far exceeded those derivable from any other species of traffic. The House would now be able to judge of the insurmountable nature of the difficulty they had to centend with in their efforts to extinguish the slave trade, by reason of these huge profits, which were such irresistible lures to the grasping sordidness of the slave merchant. All the accounts lately received from Africa attested the fact of the immense impulse given to the slave trade by the recent measures of Her Majesty's Government. Mr. Oldfield, the medical officer, and one of the survivors of Laird's unfortunate Niger exploring expedition, was, perhaps, a better authority on this point than any other person living. In a letter, dated December 3, 1847, he stated that it was quite obvious that the present measures adopted for the suppression of the slave trade were totally inefficient, and utterly abortive; and that though during the past year there had been an unusual number of captures, yet the number of slavers that had evaded the cruisers was much larger. From March, 1843, to June, 1845, there were 45 Brazilian, 18 Spanish, and one Portuguese vessels condemned in the Courts of Mixed Commission at Sierra Leone, and 4,408 slaves emancipated; from January, 1845, to June, 1847, 36 vessels were condemned, all Brazilian property, and 4,118 slaves emancipated. Between the 6th and 15th August, no less than five full slavers were sent to Sierra Leone, having on board 1,421 slaves. He had a vast number of letters from emigration agents in Africa. One, dated Sierra Leone, May 13, 1847, stated that six Brazilian prizes had been brought in; that already 1,300 slaves were in the Queen's yard; and that Brazil had that year more than double her usual supply of slaves. Another, dated from the same place, July 3, 1847, stated, that "the slave trade was increasing beyond any year since its nominal abolition." But there was a letter from the Governor of Sierra Leone to Earl Grey, dated so late as October 1, 1847, in which he said, "This traffic is not only not diminished, but it is prosecuted, if possible, with more vigour than ever." One of our naval officers at Montevideo reported that it was increasing all along the coast of Brazil. It was a well-ascertained fact, that the profits on a successful trip paid for several failures; and so long as these enormous gains were made at comparatively little risk, it was a perfect farce to try to put down the slave trade with the present naval force on the coast. And this appeared to be the opinion of every individual who could be regarded as a competent authority on the subject. The country had been placed in a false position by the conduct of the Government. The people of England were bound to maintain, at a vast expense, a squadron upon the coast of Africa, not to put down the slave trade (for it had been proved that it was unable to accomplish that object), but to raise the price of slaves to the planters of Cuba and Brazil. By raising the price of slaves in those countries, we raised the price of their slave produce, of which the people of England were now the chief consumers; and thus the people of England were compelled to pay a large annual sum in order to raise the price of that sugar of which they were to become the purchasers. Was this the way in which the present Government intended to carry out the principles of free trade? The people of England were patient and of long suffering; but he was very much mistaken if they would long continue to endure so great an absurdity as this. He knew well what would be the appeal made to the House by the noble Lord who presided over the Foreign Affairs. He would ask, whether the people of England were prepared to retrace their steps after all the great and enormous sacrifices that had already been made? He would ask, whether they were prepared to recede from the engagements into which they had entered with foreign Powers, and to which they were bound by so many treaties; and whether they were prepared to display the immensity of their own folly to the world? He would answer that he was prepared to adopt that course, because he believed it to be conducive to the interests of humanity—conducive to the interests of the African negro—and last, not least, conducive to the interests of the suffering people of England. He would now proceed further to show the grounds upon which he stated that the course we had pursued had actually increased the slave trade. He was given to understand the way in which that trade was carried on was this—certain planters in Cuba required a supply of (say a thousand) slaves; they make an agreement with a slave merchant, who fits out his vessels, and writes his instructions to agents on the coast of Africa to ship from thence, not 1,000, but 3,000 slaves. He calculates that 1,000 will die upon the passage—that 1,000 may possibly be taken by cruisers upon the coast—and the remaining 1,000 will amply repay him for his adventure; and thus, when the market only requires the supply of 1,000 slaves, owing to our interference, 3,000 victims were sacrificed. It might, perhaps, be asked, what were the views now entertained by the anti-slavery party in the country? He confessed he scarcely knew whether such a party were now in existence; but he knew that the greater portion of those who formed that party supported the measures of the Government by which the slave trade had been augmented and increased. He was inclined to think that great apathy now existed throughout the country upon the subject. If, however, he was mistaken, and had misinterpreted the sentiments and feelings of the people; and if they were as decided now as they were fifteen years ago, to make any sacrifices in order to put down the slave trade, then he would say they had the power, and he would now proceed to state the way, and, as he believed, the only way, in which that great object could be accomplished. It was well known that the only two countries which carried on the slave trade with the coast of Africa to a great extent were Cuba and Brazil. With both these countries (that was, with Spain and Brazil) we had made solemn treaties for the suppression of the slave trade; by both, those treaties had been not only disregarded, but their violation had been openly and avowedly encouraged by their respective Governments; they had even gone so far as to give peculiar privileges to the slave vessels. Such conduct is, without doubt, an insult to this country; and how have we resented that insult? In a truly Christian spirit of returning good for evil, we had consented to receive all their slave produce into our markets. This might be acting in a Christian spirit, but it was not the way to put down the slave trade. If that object was ever to be attained, it must be by an exhibition of force and determination on the part of this country. The fleet must be removed from the coast of Africa, and sent to blockade all the ports both of Cuba and Brazil, and the Governments of those countries must be informed that none of their produce will be allowed to come to Europe until their engagements are faithfully maintained with us—until good and sufficient guarantees are afforded that the slave trade is effectually suppressed. There would be no more difficulty in putting down the slave trade in the island of Cuba than there was difficulty in the island of Jamaica if the Government really was sincere: it was the will and not the power that was wanting. If, however, the Government of England was not prepared to adopt this course, if they were afraid of the consequences that might ensue, let that not be an excuse for continuing a system which was only a lamentable exhibition of weakness and of folly. There might perhaps be some who thought that the course which he proposed would, by rendering the labour in Cuba and Brazil cheap, prove injurious to our own colonies. Let them set their minds at case in that respect; our own colonies were already utterly ruined, and beyond the reach of any further injury, even from the malice of the Colonial Office. He was well aware that those who professed ultra free-trade opinions, thought that our West India colonies were a useless incumbrance to us—that we ought to buy our colonial produce in the cheapest markets—and that it was quite immaterial to the people of this country whether they bought sugar from Cuba and Brazil, or from Jamaica and Demerara. The hon. Member for the West Riding of York carried his opinions still further: according to him our naval and military establishments were useless incumbrances, and we had only to carry out free-trade principles to their legitimate extent, in order to bind together the whole human race in one common bond of brotherhood, and that political as well as national animosities would then cease to exist. When that hon. Gentleman became the Prime Minister of this country—which many of his admirers thought him destined to be—he would doubtless choose for Secretary for Foreign Affairs the hon. and learned Doctor the Member for Bolton, who was president of the Peace Association, whose principle it was that war, under no circumstances, could be justifiable, and that henceforth all wars were to be avoided, either by timely submission or a reference to the arbitration of foreign Courts. When England was blest by two such Ministers, we might doubtless expect to see realised these dreams of a golden age about which the ancients had written, but of which it seemed that we, more fortunate, were destined to witness the results. For his own part, though not a supporter of the noble Lord opposite, still he preferred by far the sad realities of his Administration to the flattering promises of those two hon. Gentlemen. He was not surprised, however, that those who enunciated these opinions should become the leaders of the people, for the people were the same in all ages; and whether it were the adoration of a serpent or calf—whether it were the religion of Johanna Southcote or of Joe Smith—political like religious enthusiasts would have their day; and if there was one thing more certain than another which we learnt from history, it was this—that it was in vain to struggle with, or to attempt to cure, the follies and absurdities of mankind. The same West Riding of York which now returned as its representative to Parliament the champion of free trade, in the year 1831 returned Mr. Brougham as the champion of that anti-slavery party whose policy it had been shown had cost this country upwards of eighty-two millions, and had ended in being a total, an acknowledged, and an unredeemed failure. When this subject was brought under the notice of Parliament, in the year 1845, the Motion was met by the Government of the day with an assurance that new and important measures were about to be adopted, from which they anticipated the most successful results. Those measures, like all that had preceded them, had proved to be utterly abortive; and he did not entertain a doubt that the present Government would give similar assurances to the House. But he intreated hon. Gentlemen to reflect on the dreadful sacrifice of life by which these renewed experiments continued to be attended. He held in his hand a return given by the Admiralty, headed— An estimate of the charge to the public for the ships of war of all classes employed for the suppression of the slave trade, and also of the number of men lost in that service. The total charge for the squadron was 706,454l.; the number of deaths of officers and men, 259; and the number of men and officers invalided, 271; making a total loss to the service of 530 men—an amount equal to that which some of our most brilliant victories cost us. But if this sacrifice of our bravest officers and seamen did not deter them from a perseverance in their present course, he called upon the House of Commons as guardians of the public purse to reflect on the amount of money which the people of England were annually compelled to pay. By a return presented to Parliament, it appeared that the expense of maintaining the squadron for the year 1845 was 706,454l.; to this must be added the maintenance of all our establishments upon the coast of Africa, Sierra Leone, Fernando Po, Cape Coast Castle, and Ascension. Then the maintenance of captured negroes, bounty on captured negroes, mixed courts, vice-admiralty courts, slave-trade commissioners—all these expenses could not be estimated at less than from 300,000l. to 500,000l. a year, which, added to 706,454l., as before stated, amounted to a sum of not less than 1,000,000l. or 1,200,000l. a year. This was equal to the whole amount of the window duty. He called upon all those who represented popular constituencies to aid and assist him in relieving the people of England from this unjust burden—to aid and assist him in dispelling that delusion which had so long been practised upon the people, and by means of which they had been made to pay so dearly the penalty of the weakness and the folly of their rulers. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to give directions that negotiations be entered into with Foreign Powers to relieve this country from the engagement under which it labours of maintaining a squadron upon the coast of Africa.


said, that when, upon former occasions, he suggested the propriety and expediency of reducing our naval establishment on the African coast, he showed that we were not only spending money uselessly, but occasioning a great deal of misery. The plan on which we proceeded involved an expenditure of not less than a million a year, and, so far from doing any good, it produced much mischief. Of late this country acted, or seemed to act, upon some principle; but if the general tenor of our policy were examined, it would be found that, with reference to the slave trade, we very often acted upon contrary principles. He had seen within the last few weeks statements illustrative of the progress of estates cultivated by slave labour; those were estates on which 60,000 70,000, and 80,000 dollars had been expended, and the returns showed that the owners got back their money in about three or four years. Now those and a multitude of similar facts proved that the cultivation of sugar by means of slave labour was enormously profitable. What was our practice? We permitted the importation of slave-grown sugar, and we made war upon all who carried on the slave trade. What consistency was there in that? He would appeal to the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and he would ask him was it right that the noble Secretary for Foreign Affairs should be allowed to ride his hobby so unmercifully as to put the country to an expense of a million annually, doing great injury to the Navy, and outraging the feelings of humanity? Was it to be any longer endured that we should go on under the guise of humanity to practise nothing but the most grievous cruelty? It was perfectly well known that nothing could stop the smuggling of men into Brazil and Cuba, the profits being so enormous. A treaty had been signed with Belgium, calling on the Belgians to join with us in putting down the slave trade. Such a proceeding showed that unless the House should interfere, it was hopeless to put an end to the course of Government. This country ought not to be ashamed to proclaim to the world, that after a trial she had found that her schemes were not only not successful, but injurious. The noble Lord had had letters addressed to him from the Anti-Slavery Society, pointing out that every successive despatch from the coast of Africa proved that we were adding to the horrors of the odious trade. In 1845, 1846, and 1847, we had 26, 27, and 28 men-of-war, with 297 guns, and 3,000 men, exposed to that climate. The number of deaths was 500. Scarcely a man had been on the coast of Africa for three years who was not in a state of disease. The papers which had been laid before the House a few days ago showed that up to the latest period the trade had been increasing. So far from being checked, as the noble Lord had said, new life had been given to it by our encouragement in admitting the produce of these islands. He would therefore ask the noble Lord not to be satisfied with merely checking it and keeping it under some control, but to adopt means to put it down carefully and quietly. In the correspondence between the American Government and the noble Lord, it would be found that the British Minister was literally insulted, if it was possible for one diplomatic Minister to insult another. Lord Aberdeen was there insulted in the strongest manner, because he expressed an earnest desire to exert himself to procure the abolition of slavery throughout the world. Mr. Calhoun said— You have no right to interfere with that which the United States think the best form of government. There are portions of the United States which disapprove of slavery as much as any other country; other portions are not willing to relinquish it; are we to allow you to interfere with those States with whom we do not ourselves interfere? Formerly we carried on the slave trade, and refused to put it down when some countries required England to do so. What would Great Britain have said if the United States, Spain, or France, had desired her to abolish slavery? Why should we now attempt to dragoon the whole world? He was convinced, from the correspondence, that if this country attempted to force Brazil to put down the slave trade, the United States would make common cause with her, and it would be a ground of war. He believed that the only course by which it was possible to put down the slave trade was to make free labour as cheap as slave labour. Furnish an adequate supply of labour to the colonies, and there could be no doubt that, with the enterprise, climate, and capital which the English colonists possessed, they would succeed in producing a cheaper article than was produced in the slave colonies. He asked hon. Members to read document No. 136, which had lately been laid on the table of the House, from which it appeared that it was extremely dangerous to carry coercive measures much further. He had taken a few extracts from the papers upstairs, all of which stated the great increase of the slave trade, and the impossibility of putting it down. Captain Wynne, from the Cape of Good Hope, stated that there was a prospect of an increase in the trade for the next month, and that the only part of Her Majesty's settlements free from it was Mozambique, and forty miles to the southward. Consul Hesketh wrote from Rio to Lord Palmerston that there was an increased traffic with slaves, both by steamers and slave vessels. Consul Porter, from Bahia, wrote that there was increased activity in the slave trade. From Rio the Consul wrote, in November, 1847, that Portuguese houses were fitting out vessels, knowing that the public authorities had an advantage in the trade. From Pernambuco, on the 30th of September, it was said that after a cessation of two years the slave trade had reappeared. Similar accounts were received from the Havannah and Sierra Leone. When the House was called on to vote money for public establishments, it was time to show in what way so large a sum as 12,000l. might be saved. On these grounds he seconded the Motion.


rose and said, that he had not intended to have said anything on the question; but as it seemed that no Member of her Majesty's Government was inclined to rise and show cause why this inordinate expenditure of money, and this most awful sacrifice of human life, should be any longer continued, he would briefly state the reasons which induced him to give his vote most cordially in favour of the Motion brought forward by the hon. Member. He believed he should not be accused of any want of sympathy with those victims of that nefarious outrage upon the rights of man, and upon the divine law—the enslavement of the human race. But he did hold that it was not right that this country, so heavily burdened in other respects, should also bear the heavy and almost utterly useless burden of attempting to put down the African slave trade. The experiment had been tried since, he believed, the year 1808, and what had been the result? He would venture to say that the number of slaves that would have been imported into the colonies, if there bad been no preventive squadron, would have been extremely small, compared with those that had been smuggled over the Atlantic, and there put up to auction. In his judgment (but he would not lay much stress upon that argument) it was not right to seek an object, professedly humane and holy, by such cruel means as those to which we had resorted in our attempts to put down the slave trade. He granted that we had every motive, religious as well as humane, to make our own soil in every part of the world sacred to freedom—to give the largest practicable amount of liberty to those who lived under our government. It was equally our duty to make at all times a consistent protest against the enslavement of the human race; but he denied that it devolved upon us as a duty to have recourse to arms and cruisers, and an expensive preventive service, for the purpose of pursuing that object of pure humanity. The attempt that had been made to effect that object had been a complete failure; be would not say that the attempt, however humane and praiseworthy, had, in fact, increased the horrors of that nefarious traffic to an incalculable degree. He had studied with the utmost attention for many years the statistics of this question, and he had endeavoured to ascertain the number of those who had fallen into the hands of the man-seller; and the result of his studios was that our efforts had proved completely abortive. But there was another reason which induced him to vote for the Motion of the hon. Member, and that was, that we bad found nothing but uncertainty on the part of those other Governments and States that had professedly united with us to put down this traffic. The noble Lord at the head of Foreign Affairs would not, he thought, deny that scarcely in one instance in which treaties had been entered into between him and the representatives of other States, had the letter and spirit of those treaties been carried into effect. Scarcely one country besides our own had at any one time kept upon the coast of Africa the stipulated number of ships. The burden had fallen almost exclusively on us; and that burden, he conceived, had now become an intolerable one, for every motive which could be assigned for the expenditure of so large a portion of our money upon the coast of Africa applied with tenfold weight at the present time to the condition of our own fellow countrymen around us. There was still another reason which induced him to vote for the Motion of the hon. Gentleman opposite, and that was this—he thought he was tolerably well informed of, though he should not trouble the House with any statements or facts in reference to the matter with regard to the history of the colony of Sierra Leone, and of other settlements on the African coast, and of those adjacent thereto. Now he would undertake to say, and to the best of his ability to demonstrate, that this preventive service had been the fruitful source of innumerable frauds, under the name of humanity, from the year 1808. He would not add anything to what had been said in commendation of the gallantry of those who were in command of our ships on the coast of Africa. The conduct of our sailors, and others in that service, had been most praiseworthy; but he did contend that Sierra Leone, and the other settlements which we had established in Africa, had been the hotbeds of fraud and chicanery. Mercenary and self-seeking men availed themselves of the humanity and liberality of the people of this country to increase their own gains, and to profit illicitly by the very trade which we had gone to such expense of blood and treasure to put down. He had all possible confidence in the efficacy of free labour to put down slave labour; he had no confidence in any other expedient. If free labour could not put down slave labour, then it appeared to him that freedom was not the law of nature. But how had they dealt with the slavery of other countries? Had they not for a long series of years utterly excluded the resources of our vast Indian possessions from this country? Efforts were made by other countries to increase sugar cultivation in their colonies, and they gradually sprung into magnitude, wealth, and prosperity. And what was the fact now? Why, that whilst the comparatively barren colonial possessions of other countries were yearly yielding immense returns to their possessors, our rich and unlimited possessions, which, within a very few years, would, if cultivated, yield us 400,000 tons of sugar per annum, were lying comparatively waste. If they desired to put down slavery in Cuba or the Brazils, or any other country, they must adopt an enlightened and just system of encouraging free labour in our own vast possessions; and he would undertake to say, that if they did so, they would be quite able to compete with the labour of other countries, however fertile their soil might be. In the present depressed and impoverished condition of the trades and manufactures of this country, in the midst of the sufferings and complaints of the people at large, he could not consent any longer to this expenditure of money with the professed (and he believed sincere) object of putting down slavery; but as they saw that attempt had been altogether inefficacious, and had tended to increase rather than mitigate the sufferings of those for whom the expenditure was made, he joined with others in that House in expressing his deep abhorrence of the system of slavery; and his sincere hope was that other countries, like ourselves, might come to the conviction that the system was unjust and unholy in its character; but at the same time, he confessed he did not see how the duty of attempting to put down slavery in the world devolved solely upon this country, to the manifest desertion of the interests of our own vast colonial empire, an attention to which was the surest way of putting an end to the horrors of slavery. By employing free labour in our vast and fertile colonies in the growth of sugar, cotton, or coffee, we should demonstrate to the world what he believed was the conviction of all sound philosophic minds, that, all other things being equal, free labour was in every country in the world superior to every description of slave labour.


said, that it seemed to be the general desire that this discussion should not be pressed upon the present occasion; but, nevertheless, he would trouble the House with a few words upon the subject. It certainly seemed to him inopportune to ask the House to decide this question at once, before they had received the report of the Committee on this subject. One of the reasons urged by the hon. Gentleman in support of his Motion was, that as they were about to go into a vote of supply, he thought this was a fitting occasion in which to make such a Motion; but he (Lord H. Vane) thought that that was the very reason why the House should pause before it proceeded to discontinue a system which certainly involved an expenditure of money. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. G. Thompson) took a similar line of argument, and said, that in the present distressed state of the country, and considering the great depression, acknowledged on all sides, to exist in the manufacturing and commercial branches of society, the House ought not to agree to so large an expenditure of money for this purpose. Now it did appear to him that there was one consideration which the hon. Member had totally lost sight of, and that was, that it would be totally impossible for that House, by a vote of that night, and in such a time as the present, to recede at once from the engagements which this country had entered into with other countries. Before they could do so, lengthened negotiations must be entered into with those countries. And was this a time, when there was a Provisional Government in a neighbouring great country, to expect that such negotiations could be fairly entered into? At present he would say no more upon the subject, but he should certainly oppose the Motion.


said, it was impossible to present to the House a graver or a simpler case—grave from the expenditure of money, life, and character—simple from the clear, conclusive, and unrefuted evidence of the utter failure of all the objects for which that expenditure had been incurred, and the aggravation of all the ills which it had been designed to relieve. The House, since it met, had been engaged in the fruitless contemplation of the misery of the people, greatly increased beyond the scale of former suffering, and in the industrious voting of supplies, surpassing even the limit of former expenditure. If ever then there was a period when economy and reduction were an obligation, it was the present. If ever there was a time when the House stood in need of redeeming its character with the nation from the charge of extravagance, it was the present; and the present Motion afforded the opportunity. The sums voted on former evenings had been so voted in obedience, right or wrong, to the conviction of a great majority of the House, of the existence of dangers abroad; but this vote had reference to a system standing by itself, which was not associated with any general purposes of policy, or a part of the doctrines professed either by the Administration in power, or the party out of office. It was in furtherance of a project adopted by both those parties and the country, in consequence of the arguments and the authority of certain individuals who vouched for this system, and who prognosticated certain consequences from the steps which, in obedience to their suggestions, had been taken. It was now a public notoriety that the system had proved a failure, and that the prognostications had been belied. Nor was this all. Those who, at the present time, represented the system, had confessed that failure to be as complete in respect to their object, as humiliating in respect to themselves. The hon. Member for Inverness-shire had quoted a passage from Sir F. Buxton, which had not failed to produce a deep impression on that House; but he regretted that his hon. Friend had not continued the quotation, and read the lines which followed, and which were to the effect—he could not charge his memory with the precise terms—that "had there been any reluctance on the part of the Government, any lukewarmness on the part of the nation—had the means placed at their disposal been less ample, or the period of time afforded for making the experiment loss sufficient, there would have remained some consolation for past reverses, and some hope in future attempts; but all these having been employed, and having failed, it only remained to make the frank and unreserved confession of that failure." But it was not only failure which they had to deplore, but aggravation of the evils themselves; and yet in face of such a confession and such results, and after the enormous expenditure already incurred, they were still called upon to burden the people of this country with a million and a quarter yearly. Could such conduct be called policy? Was it not rather delusion? Was it not insanity? If at length they had recovered their senses, was not the fact of that change to be displayed in reversing the acts which in that unhappy condition they had committed? Why had their past conduct been insane? They had surrendered their reason to philanthropy—a good motive, but a dangerous guide; they had sought a desirable end, but by unhallowed means; they had set at nought justice and law—they had trampled upon the independence of foreign States—they had endeavoured to fix the name and character of piracy upon acts which the law of nations recognised, and under certain conditions sanctioned. They had scorned the warnings of the greatest of modern and judicial authorities, and, obedient to the dictates of philanthropy, but contemptuous of the dictates of law, they "had pressed forward to the attainment of a desirable end by means warranted neither by public honour or by private morality." Hence these lamentable results. England was to have been the leader of this great philanthropic question; she was to have been the soul and head of a great European league of benevolence and civilisation, for the good of humanity and to her own glory. She had made this the great aim and end of her diplomatic effort since the Peace; she had mooted it in private negotiation—she had persuaded by argument—she had seduced by bribes—she had forced by threats, other nations, into slave-trade treaties. The consequence had been to disgust the nations with this philanthropic cant, and to raise up real obstacles to the putting down of this infamous practice. Wherever she had on other grounds made herself the object of fear and detestation, she furnished inducements to withdraw from engagements so entered into, or to leave them unfulfilled. To violate them was an opportunity of injuring England. But while she aroused hatred, she presented acts calculated to awaken suspicion. Vehement to put down slavery, she had taken upon herself the task of preparing a vast province of the New World to pass from its union with the Mexican States to its incorporation with the United States, by sanctioning its transition from a free to a slaveholding State. The United States of Mexico did not acknowledge slavery—England took upon herself to recognise the independence of Texas on condition of the abrogation of that law, and thus open that country to the extension of slavery from the United States, and furnish the occasion and the inducements for its incorporation. What then could be inferred, save that England was dishonest in her professed purposes, and had an avowed object behind to serve? A petition from the West Indies urges this House, as one of three measures proposed to save the West Indian colonies from ruin—to increase restrictions on the slave trade, so that by raising the price of slaves they might be better able to struggle against the competition of Cuba and Brazil. What conclusions could be drawn save this—that our efforts to put down the traffic were dictated by a selfish regard to our own interest, under the assumed pretext of an insulting philanthropy? The noble Lord who had preceded him, had, he understood, before he entered the House, stated that there might be difficulties in the way of any change in consesequence of engagements with foreign Powers. The proposed resolution was not that engagements should be broken, but that measures should be taken to release other countries from engagements which they had undertaken most unwillingly, solely at England's request; and which now there was every probability of being less satisfactory than they had been before. He therefore trusted that the House would, by its vote, free the country from this intolerable load of taxes, embarrassments, guilt, and disgrace, and put an end to a system which led to the employment of our forces on services which could only be termed buchaneering expeditions; which exposed officers on their return to this country to have to stand before the courts of law as defendants in actions brought against them by slavedealers for services undertaken in obedience to superior instructions—services of so anomalous a nature that when the law was taken in their own hands against them—by the men whom they had captured as pirates, they were acquitted by our judges. He returned his sincere thanks to his hon. Friend for his courage as well as his ability in bringing forward this question. It was, as all matters of high and public interest, distasteful to the House; and he implored the representatives of popular constituencies to consider whether a case like this did not interest them at least as much as those parochial discussions which were ever sure to engage their earnest solicitude. He entreated of them to consider whether the exposure of this night did not suffice to prove to them how dangerous it was for a great people to neglect any department of its affairs, for from this one they might judge of the remainder of that class which it had pleased them to designate and to treat as foreign. He would conclude with citing the words from the learned Judge from whom he had already quoted, who, so far hack as 1816, declared from the bench, "That these diplomatic congresses and treaties by which they pretended to establish peace in Africa, must, if persevered in, render peace in Europe impossible."


would not have risen on the present occasion but for some expressions which had fallen from the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, who had been pleased to term the efforts of the officers and men engaged on the coast of Africa for the suppression of the slave trade as buccaneering expeditions. He had thought that the hon. Gentleman, who was so fertile in language and argument, would have shown how those officers and seamen had conducted themselves to prove his assertion, that the object of that squadron had failed. But it appeared to him the hon. Gentleman had failed to establish his own position. The hon. Gentleman had not shown the points to which he attributed the failure of the experiment. The hon. Gentleman was fond of matters of diplomacy, and he thought he must have seen that the Treaty of 1845 had greatly contributed to lessen the power of our cruisers on the coast of Africa. In respect to that treaty he must say there had been a complete truckling to Prance. Let the hon. Gentleman bear in mind what our gallant seamen and officers suffered from the influence of a pestilential climate! But, instead of tendering his thanks to these men, the hon. Gentleman (he hoped he did not intend it as a sneer) spoke of them as persons engaged in buccaneering expeditions. He hoped the hon. Gentleman would on reflection see that these were expressions which were hurtful to the feelings of the officers and seamen who were employed in this service. He thought the Motion of the hon. Gentleman was inopportune, being calculated to excite the apprehension that this nation wished to back out of her engagements in respect to this squadron. For his own part, he believed it to be impossible for us to prevent the trade on the coast of Africa, without having a sufficient supply of ships.


said, that as Chairman of the Select Committee to whom the whole subject of the slave trade had been referred, it might be expected that he should say a few words. It would be useless, however, for him to go over the whole of the ground which he had attempted to traverse a month ago. Between himself and the hon. Member for Inverness there was really no difference of opinion; and he must express his satisfaction that on a subject to which he had given so much attention, he should have the pleasure of being associated with so able an advocate. But the whole subject was now under the consideration of a Select Committee, and when the House considered the pains which were being taken by that Committee, and when they reflected how deeply the subject had enlisted the best feelings and sympathies of the people, he did not think they would deem it prudent to come to a premature decision on one branch of the question. He had heard nothing since he had last addressed the House which in the slightest degree altered his opinion; but, under the circumstances in which he and the House were placed, he felt it his duty to oppose the Motion of the hon. Gentleman.


had made up his mind to support the Motion. He thought the great experiment in which this nation had engaged was one worthy of its character; but after the clear statement made by the Mover of the address, which was uncontradicted by any Member of Her Majesty's Government, he saw no other conclusion to which he could come, but that the great experiment which had been made had wholly and totally failed. The very policy which led this country to allow the importation of foreign slave-grown sugar could not fail to give a great impetus to the slave trade. We were pursuing a course which involved increased expense to augment the price of the produce which was to be consumed in this country.


I do not mean to dispute that this is a subject very well deserving the most attentive consideration of the House, and that it may very properly he brought before us at a time when a vote of supply is demanded; of course, I admit, that when the Government ask the House to vote money, it is competent for any hon. Member to propose means by which, in his opinion, expenditure may be saved. But, on the other hand, seeing that the whole of this subject was not long ago, and, after considerable debate, referred for examination to a Select Committee, I think the hon. Member (Mr. Baillie) has not exercised a sound discretion in bringing it again before the House on this occasion. If the hon. Member thinks he can prove the matters which he has asserted that he can, I would suggest to him that it would be a more fitting and appropriate course for him to have proved them before the Committee, than to assert that he could prove them in debate, when matters of detail cannot be treated with that sort of accuracy with which a Committee can sift them. Do not let it be understood, as the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down seems to suppose from my not having spoken earlier, that I acquiesce at all in the main assertions of my hon. Friend; I feel that it would be inconsistent with the objection I have stated for me to go into any minute reply to the hon. Gentleman. But I would really ask the House to bear in mind, that this is a matter arising, not out of any particular measures of the present or the late Government, but of a system of policy which all Administrations, from 1815 till now, have adopted at the earnest request and entreaty, not only of Parliament, but of a majority of the country; and that we are called upon to reverse that whole policy at once and hastily, by an Amendment to the proposal for going into Committee of Supply. I will not go into the argument that we ought to retrace our steps for the suppression of the slave trade, from motives of humanity; I think that is an argument which will not be pressed by any one who has much attended to the subject. But the ground that is taken is, that we have tried this system for thirty years, and that it is acknowledged to have failed. Now, I for one, do not admit that. We have not been trying this for thirty years, at least with means in any degree sufficient for the purpose. We are endeavouring to put down the slave trade by means of the right of search, by which alone a maritime police can be carried on; but, until 1839, we did not possess that right by treaties with other Powers, and the slave trade under the Spanish or Portuguese flags, south of the line, was carried on free from molestation. It is only from 1839 that you can say that the system has had in any degree a fair trial. It is said that it has not produced the effects expected or desired; but the statements of the hon. Member himself (Mr. Baillie) show that to a certain extent at least it has succeeded. He adverted to the great profits made in the slave trade; but they can only be made by the great excess of the value of a slave when sold in America over his value when purchased in Africa, and over the expense of transport; and it is manifest, when such a profit is made, that the supply must fall infinitely short of the demand. Then, it is as demonstrable as a proposition in Euclid, that if you took away those impediments which have narrowed the supply, the two prices would nearly equal each other; and the conclusion is, that the measures of prevention have lessened the number transported from Africa. That fact alone shows that this system has not utterly failed; that if it has not put down the slave trade, it has very materially diminished the number of negroes taken. But it is to be remembered also, that we, that is, the successive Governments of the country, have by negotiation persuaded many countries altogether to abandon the slave trade; that Prance and Holland no longer pursue it, and Portugal scarcely, and that the traffic is now carried on almost entirely by a colony of Spain and by the Brazils. If England had not made the efforts that she has to induce other countries to adopt her view of the criminality of this traffic, in all probability France and Holland, and all countries possessing colonies, would have carried it on to the utmost extent of cultivable land in those colonies; and, therefore, in this matter also, we have been instrumental in preventing a great deal of human suffering. People let the phrase pass from mouth to mouth without examination, that our measures for repressing this crime have greatly aggravated the horrors of the slave trade. I utterly disbelieve it. Why should they? If you tell me of the sufferings of the negroes in the "middle passage" now, I will venture to say I can point you to statements of suffering quite equal in former times. It is said that the slavetraders employ fast-sailing vessels; but the greater the value of the negro in America, the greater the inducement to land there alive as many as possible of the number embarked in Africa; and if our efforts for prevention have given an artificial value to the negro landed in America, we have given the slave-trader a greater interest in taking care to land all that he buys. If, therefore, the practice still prevails of stowing the ships with a greater number than can be landed in America, it arises, not from our measures of prevention, but from the blindness of avarice, which operated equally before we adopted our present system. Again, it is said that we are pursuing methods which render other countries hostile to us. Why, we can exercise no authority or power in this respect but what is conceded to us by the voluntary act of other countries engaging in treaties with us. It is quite true that many of the subjects of Portugal and Brazil concerned in this traffic are animated with feelings of resentment against England for having persuaded their Government to enter into such engagements with us; but that is the hostility of men desirous of committing a crime, towards persons employed in preventing them from committing it. However, I think this is not the proper time to go at large into this great question; the whole subject has been referred to a Committee now engaged in examining every branch of it; and I think the Motion is, in point of time, premature, and in point of form is urging the House to come to a conclusion without waiting for those elements for its decision which the labours and the report of the Committee will place before it.


The hon. Member for Gateshead thinks that there is some similarity between the speech with which a month ago he favoured the House, and that which has been made to-night by my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness. I had not the privilege of listening to the speech of the hon. Member for Gateshead; but I have respect for his talents—of which indeed I have many proofs—that I can easily believe that his speech was as clear and as able as that of my hon. Friend; and as both spoke upon the same subject, I have no doubt there would be some similarity. But I beg to say that there is a difference in the course which has been recommended by him and by the hon. Member for Inverness; for the hon. Member for Gateshead did not recommend the House to do anything, whereas the hon. Member for Inverness recommends the House to act decisively, and with effect. The noble Lord who has just sat down reminds us that on the Motion of the hon. Member for Gateshead the subject had been referred to a Select Committee. Sir, the House agreed to that course; but it agreed to no more than that the question should be referred. But I want the House for a moment to consider this—is the question of so much importance that they wish it to be settled? and if it is a question of so much importance, is the reference of it to a Select Committee exactly the process by which it will be settled? Night after night questions are referred to Select Committees. Two Select Committees have been appointed to-night to decide questions of importance which ought to have been decided, in my mind, by the debates of this House or in the Cabinet. Do you mean to carry out this system? I wish some hon. Member would move for a return of the number of Select Committees now sitting. It would be one of the most remarkable returns ever presented to this House. But if you go on referring subjects of legislation and of administration to Select Committees, there will soon not be a sufficient number of Members to sit upon them. I am at present a Member of a Select Committee of great importance—I regret every hour that I am absent from it—but this afternoon I have been put upon an Election Committee, and I can only account for this by the number of Select Committees which the Government have already been induced to accede to. The present, then, is a different Motion from that of the hon. Member for Gateshead, for it recommends to the House to take a decided and a practical step; and that is the chief if not the only reason why I shall support it. But the noble Lord tells us that though this system has been pursued for a long time, the little effect produced has resulted from its not having been till lately fairly tried. Now mark the reasoning of the noble Lord. I do not charge it against his Government, for I agree with him that the system has been pursued by several Governments. The noble Lord says that this system has not been fairly tried, for it was only in 1839 that the right of search, which the noble Lord represents as a necessary ingredient of the system, was conceded. We know that this right of search was obtained only in 1839; but we know, also, that six years afterwards you again renounced it. I think, therefore, we have a right to suppose that in the right of search there is something impracticable—something that, when its action is clearly developed, is found to be so much opposed to the reciprocal intercourse of nations, that the more the system is pursued, the more you are forced to renounce that which you acknowledge to be necessary to the system. Well, then, I take the case on the broad ground on which it has been placed by my hon. Friend. There is a great cry for economy, and an acknowledged difficulty with regard to the revenue of the country. Now we have shown to us a sum which may certainly be counted at a million per annum expended on a service of a questionable character, and which prevents to that extent a reduction in taxation, that you, the representatives of the people, night after night declare to be of the utmost importance to your constituents. Acknowledging, which I do not—admitting, which I am not prepared to do—that the system has been successful, still it is a question whether it is politic and expedient now to pursue it. It would be your duty, if it were successful, to calculate whether the interest and advantage of your constituents is not on the side of your terminating the system, and in expending the money in some way or other to the advantage of the people of this country. It is impossible, after what we have heard of the distresses of the country—it is impossible now, when the resources of the country are universally admitted to be in a state of embarrassment—it is impossible that a deaf ear should be turned by Members to a remonstrance which points to a principle of questionable policy, expending a sum which cannot amount to less than a million a year of the national resources, and adding to the expenditure of eighty millions which has already been wasted during the last thirty years in the same manner. But I ask the House if one statement made by my hon. Friend has been met? The noble Lord says, indeed, with regard to the increase of sufferings alleged by my hon. Friend, that he doubted—he denied—that there had been any increase of suffering. But the noble Lord did not deign to enter into details, or circumstances, or facts, to shake our faith in the lucid statements of my hon. Friend. I will put this point to the noble Lord. The possession of a certain number of water casks is made the test by your system of the ship being a slaver. What is the consequence? The consequence is that these ships do not take on board that number of water casks. The consequence is, that there is not a sufficient supply of water—that only once in two days the slaves get what is called a drink of water. That is the consequence of your treaties and your legislation; and yet you say that by them the sufferings of the slave have not been increased. This is evidence which was given a few days ago before your Committee, which is not a Secret Committee; and it is a clear proof that the sufferings of the slaves are greatly increased by this system. Well now, if, as regards the financial statements of my hon. Friend, and if as regards the increase of sufferings on the part of the slaves, his statements have not been doubted or disproved, I beg the House to recollect a third great question in this system—the national discontent which it has created, the misunderstandings between this country and others of which it has been the fruitful parent. We know very well—take one instance which occurs to me, and which must occur to every one—take the case of Brazil. Even now, in this day of unadulterated free imports, we hear hon. Gentlemen express their regret that we have not made a treaty with Brazil. It was only the other night that the noble Lord regretted the failure of these negotiations, attributing it to the pride of the Brazilians, who fancied theirs was the most important trade in the world. I have no hesitation in saying that if not the sole, at least one of the principal causes of the discomfiture of the negotiations with the Court of Rio for a commercial treaty, is our conduct with regard to the slave trade. That is a difficulty which meets us in every court and in every colony. And if we see that this system is a source of vast expenditure—if we see that it causes an increase in the sufferings of the slave population, for whom we have sacrificed and are still prepared to sacrifice so much—and if, in the third place, we see that this system is fruitful in national misconceptions, and is the cause of failure in the subject of our commercial negotiations, which are now so important—if we see these three great allegations sustained by facts—then I say this House will listen with attention and respect to any hon. Member who calls upon us to put an end to it. But when we remember that in addition to these three reasons an appeal has been made to us, on the ground that there is, at this moment, great national suffering and great financial embarrassment—night after night hon. Members are racking their brains to know how to find the ways and means—then, I say, every hon. Gentleman would incur great responsibilities if he did not attend to the representations which have been made by the hon. Member for Inverness, and if he did not give his vote in support of the hon. Member. That will add to the national credit, and prove to the people of this country that we are prepared to reduce the establishments, not in those departments which are necessary to the maintenance of its honour and power, but where, through a long series of years, we have attempted to realise ideas which were founded in ignorance of human nature and of the state of the world. For these reasons I shall support the Amendment of my hon. Friend.


explained that the right of search he referred to as necessary to a fair trial of the system was a right of searching vessels under the Spanish and Portuguese flags, and that that right had not been given up.


agreed with the hon. Member who had spoken last, though on different and higher grounds than he had taken, that they ought not to be regardless of the character of the country, which he thought they would be if they were now to abandon a system which had for its object the highest point of redeeming benevolence. He thought they would at least better maintain their credit by showing that if they were to change their policy they would not do it on light grounds—that they would not overturn in the debate of a single night the policy that they had steadily pursued for thirty years. The hon. Member who proposed the Amendment spoke of the health of the squadron, and pointed to the reports of 1845 and 1848, as if they were contradictory of each other. He certainly thought they required explanation; but that only showed the more the danger of acting precipitately. From the information he had received he had reason to believe that the last return was the more correct one. On the 7th of April last. Commodore Hotham wrote to inform the Lords of the Admiralty that the general health of the squadron was excellent—that the per centage of deaths, including the hospital, did not exceed 4¾ per cent, which would be considered a marvellous low average in any part of the world. This was altogether in the face of the report for 1845, which stated the loss of life in the squadron at 250, with a sickness of nearly equal amount. If this discrepancy existed with regard to figures, how much more likely was it to occur in questions which, after all, were matters of opinion. In the same despatch from which he had already quoted, Commodore Hotham said it was the general opinion of the best informed persons at Sierra Leone, that the slave trade in that neighbourhood had received a decided check, and that the natives were beginning to turn their attention to legitimate traffic, rather than engage in the precarions trade of slaving. In that sentence, he thought, was contained the whole philosophy of the question. He was satisfied that the system of a maritime police alone could not put an end to slavetrading. His opinion was, that by checking the traffic in slaves, they would give the legitimate traffic room to operate, and then the natives would learn that the labour of a man was more valuable than the sale of his person. And here he must warn hon. Gentlemen interested in the commerce of the West Indies, that there were other interests which could not go on without the protection of our Navy. The legitimate traffic with Africa had greatly increased within the last twenty years. The declared value of our exports to the west coast of Africa was, in 1826, 150,000l., while a year or two ago it amounted to more than 500,000l. This legitimate commerce was still going on, and he had no doubt it would ultimately abolish the slave trade, but, in the meantime, it needed the protection of the Navy.


I wish to address a few observations to the House, not upon the general subject of the efficacy of the system adopted with respect to the slave trade, but with reference to the position of the question as it stands before us. I will, therefore, abstain from entering into any discussion as to whether we have thrown away a vast sum of money, and aggravated the horrors of the slave trade by our efforts to suppress it; but I venture to remind the House that according even to the statement of those Members who urge those considerations upon our attention, this course has now for more than thirty years, under different Administrations, been continued at a cost of 80,000,000l. Is it then reasonable, even supposing a primâ facie case to be established against the system, that at a time when a Committee is actually sitting to inquire into the facts of the case, and on a night devoted to the consideration of the Army Estimates, when no one supposed that such a question would be seriously discussed, we should be called upon to subvert the policy which has been pursued for thirty years; to render nugatory all the vast expenditure of treasure which has taken place; and to rush, without seeing our way, into a new system which we are to-night told will lead to happier results? That is the question with respect to which the House is really called upon to decide. The House has already decided on a course; upon the proposition of the hon. Member for Gateshead it has appointed a Select Committee to inquire into the subject. When that Committee shall have brought its labours to a conclusion, and its report, accompanied by the evidence, shall confirm the representations made by the hon. Member for Inverness, it will be time enough for the House to adopt the course which the hon. Member calls upon us now to pursue; or it may be that the House will see cause to modify the system, without altogether abandoning it. I am not prepared to admit that the abandonment of our system of maritime police on the coast of Africa might not have a prejudicial effect on the interests of this country. My hon. Friend who has just spoken has referred to the extension of our commerce with the coast of Africa. There can be no doubt that, as regards a large portion of the African coast, the slave trade has been superseded by legitimate commerce, and that year by year civilisation is extending itself amongst the inhabitants. But if it were advisable to alter your policy as regards the slave trade, surely it would not be advisable to take away the protection to legitimate commerce. The question is not simply whether you will continue the system in its present shape or abandon it altogether; for you may probably find, when the evidence of the Committee now sitting is laid before you, that there are various considerations and various courses of policy on which you will have to deliberate, and when it may be found that you will have to alter some parts of your policy, while there are other parts which you cannot consent to abandon. The hon. Member who introduced this subject, presuming that a case was made out, has referred to the question as one simply of economy; but let me again refer to what is really the fact, that we have this question under inquiry, and that the result of that inquiry may be to confirm the faith of those who now believe that the system has been successful, and is likely to be so in future. Supposing that to be the case, would it be very creditable to this House at once, on a question of economy, to abandon that system at the present moment? The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire has said in effect—"Secure your power; secure all those establishments that are necessary for the dignity of the country and the real business of the Executive; but upon this, a mere question of humanity, cut down your establishments, and thus relieve the burdens of the country." Sir, I can conceive no course so little honourable to this House as to say—"Here are establishments which it is necessary to our power that we shall keep up—powers which, for the sake of the Executive Government, it is necessary that we shall keep up; but this is an item coming under the head humanity—you may make a million by abandoning it—humanity is not necessary—let us get rid of so much taxation, and save so much in the estimates." What I wish the House to consider is, that this is a question not to be decided summarily on the strength of a statement made by an hon. Gentleman on a day devoted to other business—but it is a question to be decided after due examination and consideration. The hon. Member for Montrose says—and I wish I could agree with him in all his anticipations—that it will be found that free labour is less expensive than slave labour, and that if it receive proper encouragement it will beat slave labour out of the field. Now my expectations go a good way with his; and I am inclined to believe that with due encouragement to free labour, which I cannot say that we have given to the extent that we ought—I say that I am inclined to hope that free labour will be able to compete successfully with slave labour. But if we have not given sufficient encouragement to free labour—if rightly or wrongly our fears of the slave trade have induced us to place impediments in the way of free labour—so that where there is a great quantity of labour at hand, as in India, capital has not been applied for the purposes of cultivation—surely. Sir, that very fact forms a reason for our not acting precipitately, and for using due deliberation ere we attempt to make any change in our system. You may find, a year hence, that you can safely abandon a great part of your present system, if free labour is able to compete successfully with slave labour. On that ground you may act with confidence, and you will not have to reproach yourselves with having abandoned a system which would have led you, had you persevered in it, to a successful result.


I am not one of those who think this a convenient occasion to revive the discussion that took place in 1845, as to the policy of the treaty then entered into with France, for the purpose, not of abrogating the rights we then possessed, but of substituting some other system for the suppression of the slave trade, that was thought likely to be more efficaciously applied than that which we then possessed; but I think, not with standing the explanation of the noble Lord, the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire still seems to labour under misapprehension as to the extent to which this country has relinquished the right of search. We possessed the right of search in 1845 in regard to all those countries that carried on the slave trade. We had the right of search in respect to Portuguese vessels, in respect to Spanish vessels, and in respect to the vessels of Brazil. The hon. Gentleman seems to think that, by the transactions of 1845, the right of search was abandoned by this country with regard to the vessels of Powers carrying on the slave trade; but, in fact, we retain at this moment, in 1848, in full possession every right of search that we had at the commencement of 1845 with regard to vessels of any country excepting France. We have still a full and complete right of search as to Portugal, the Brazils, and Spain. As to the policy of the treaty of 1845, when that subject was discussed in this House with a full knowledge of the facts—with the most recent and complete information as to the policy of Government—the policy in question met with the almost unanimous approbation of the House—the noble Lord, who disapproved of that policy, although he brought forward a Motion on the subject, not caring to take the opinion of the House, because he admitted that it would be against his views, and limiting himself simply to a demand for papers. Well, but what was relinquished in 1845? We had the right of search reciprocally with France, extending along the whole of the west coast of Africa—we had no right of search along the eastern coast at all, and only on certain portions of the sea lines of Cuba, the Brazils, and Madagascar. With respect to French vessels, indeed, we had no right of search at a higher latitude than that of ten degrees. France and England were to give warrants granting the right of search of the vessels of the two countries respectively in those parts where the right was reciprocal; but we were not entitled to ask for warrants for more than double the ships held by France. Consequently, if France were jealous of British power, and if she objected to this right of search, by limiting the number of vessels for which she made application for warrants, she had the power of preventing us from employing any greater number of warrants than she chose. If she employed, for example, only five vessels on the coast of Africa, we had power to employ only ten. France, I believe it is admitted, does not carry on the slave trade. I believe there is no suspicion of French vessels carrying on that traffic; but this House feared that slave vessels might assume the French flag, and accordingly we still have the right of visiting French vessels under the restrictions I have specified. It did appear to us that if we could insure the co-operation of France, even with limited powers of search, the moral influence of two such great Powers acting cordially in concert with each other would be more efficacious for the suppression of the slave trade than the course previously followed. It was no unseemly deference to French opinions or prejudices that led us to adopt the Treaty of 1845. We had a bonâ fide belief that in the state of opinion then prevalent in France, with respect to the right of search, we were more likely, by the provisions of this treaty, to have efficacious aid from that country than if we insisted on maintaining the right given to us by the Treaty of 1838. I am not in a position to give an opinion as to the result of this arrangement equal to that which can no doubt be given by the members of Her Majesty's Government; but I must again remark, that our right of search has not in the slightest degree been affected by the Treaty of 1845. With respect to the present Motion, I shall certainly feel it my duty to vote against the Motion of the hon. Member for Inverness. That Motion might have been very good if moved as an amendment on the Motion of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Hutt) a month ago. He moved that the House should go into a full inquiry as to the policy of adhering to our present system. The House assented to that Motion, and a large number of Members have accordingly been applying themselves to the question. I did not object to that Motion, though I participate in the opinion expressed tonight by an hon. Member, that there is great evil in appealing too frequently to the opinions of Select Committees. There is a danger of weakening the power of the Executive Government; but I am not quite sure that this is not a case in which the House is specially called upon to make inquiry, because our present policy for the suppression of the slave trade is not so much the policy of the Government as of the country and the House itself. The House in 1839 did, on the Motion of the hon. Member for the University of Oxford, with an unanimous voice, address the Crown to enter into fresh treaties, and invoke in a greater degree than before the aid of other Powers for the suppression of the slave trade. And is this house to vote to-night an address to the Crown, praying that the Crown should enter into negotiations for the purpose of abrogating the treaties that exist for that purpose? It is possible that the House may have changed its opinion; but I think it should be our policy not to take that step without having instituted a full inquiry as to the efficacy of the system which was imposed on the Executive Government by this House. If that system has failed, it is open to the House to revoke it; but for the credit of the House, surely, that decisive step ought not to be taken without that full inquiry, the necessity for which in this case justified the appointment of the Committee, in order, if possible, to throw the fullest light upon the subject. That Committee is already formed; it has summoned before it many of the most distinguished officers who have been employed upon the service; and I, for one, am disposed to suspend my judgment until the report of that Committee be brought forward. I wish to leave my mind free upon the subject, and therefore I must decline stating my own impressions, founded upon the facts which have already reached us, until I have the fullest information possible on the subject. There has been a change, no doubt, with respect to the sugar duties. It is impossible not to feel that the admission of slave-grown sugar may have made a material alteration in the case. I pronounce no opinion. It may be shown that that admission may only increase the necessity for vigorous exertions on the coast of Africa. We have heard to-night of the enormous profits of the slave trade—amounting often to 400 and 500 per cent—and I certainly am not prepared to say that our efforts to suppress the trade should be relaxed, and that having opened our markets to slave-grown sugar, we should leave the coast of Africa open to the traffic of slavetraders. Neither am I prepared to assent to the proposition which would compel the Executive Government to appeal to France; and I say so without referring to all the considerations which must be presented to our minds upon that subject at the present moment. I am not prepared to assent to a proposition which would fetter the hands of the Executive Government, by resolutions adopted without inquiry—nay, adopted in the face of the inquiry which not a fortnight ago we assented to—a proposition by the execution of which the authority of the Executive Government with France would certainly not be much increased, and certainly would not be likely to add much to that of the House of Commons. It is a better course, I apprehend, to leave the matter in the hands of the Executive Government. It is a course, indeed, only consistent with good policy, and with the character of this House, if, having assented to an inquiry, we permit it to take its course, and to lay before us all the information which it is likely to supply, before we take any decisive step in the matter to which that inquiry relates.


, amidst calls for a division, said, that the question was, whether the policy which they had been pursuing, expending millions of money and sacrificing hundreds of lives, was a right and just policy or not? Was it right to tax the people of this country for an object which did not properly fall within the range of the Government at all?

The House divided, on the question that the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question:—Ayes 216; Noes 80: Majority 136.

List of the AYES.
Acland, Sir T. D. Charteris, hon. F.
Adair, R. A. S. Chichester, Lord J. L.
Adderly, C. B. Childers, J. W.
Aglionby, H. A. Christy, S.
Anderson, A. Clay, Sir W.
Anson, hon. Col. Clay, J.
Armstrong, Sir A. Clements, hon. C. S.
Armstrong, R. B. Clerk, right hon. Sir G.
Arundel and Surrey, Earl of Cocks, T. S.
Codrington, Sir W.
Ashley, Lord Coke, hon. E. K.
Baring, H. B. Colebrooke, Sir T. E.
Baring, rt. hon. F. T. Coles, H. B.
Barnard, E. G. Colvile, C. R.
Barron, Sir H. W. Compton, H. C.
Bellew, R. M. Corry, rt. hon. H. L.
Berkeley, hon. Capt. Courtenay, Lord
Berkeley, hon. H. F. Cowper, hon. W. F.
Birch, Sir T. B. Craig, W. G.
Bourke, R. S. Currie, H.
Bowles, Adm. Currie, R.
Boyle, hon. Col. Damer, hon. Col.
Brackley, Visct. Davie, Sir H. R. F.
Bramston, T. W. Davies, D. A. S.
Brisco, M. Dawson, hon. T. V.
Brockman, E. D. Deedes, W.
Brotherton, J. Dod, J. W.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Douglas, Sir C. E.
Buller, C. Duckworth, Sir J. T. B.
Bunbury, E. H. Dnff, G. S.
Busfeild, W. Duncuft, J.
Campbell, hon. W. F. Dundas, Adm.
Cardwell, E. Dundas, Sir D.
Carew, W. H. P. Dunne, F. P.
Carter, J. B. Ebrington, Visct.
Cavendish, hon. G. H. Edwards, H.
Cayley, E. S. Ellice, rt. hon. E.
Elliot, hon. J. E. Morpeth, Visct.
Evans, W. Morison, Gen.
Farrer, J. Morris, D.
Ferguson, Col. Mulgrave, Earl of
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Napier, J.
Floyer, J. Norreys, Lord
Foley, J. H. H. O'Brien, Sir L.
Forbes, W. Paget, Lord A.
Fordyce, A. D. Paget, Lord C.
Forster, M. Paget, Lord G.
Fox, R. M. Palmerston, Visct.
Fox, W. J. Parker, J.
Freestun, Col. Patten, J. W.
Gibson, rt. hon. T. M. Pechell, Capt.
Glyn, G. C. Peel, right hon. Sir R.
Gordon, Adm. Philips, Sir G. R.
Grace, O. D. J. Pigott, F.
Graham, rt. hon. Sir J. Pinney, W.
Greene, T. Plowden, W. H. C.
Grenfell, C. P. Power, N.
Grenfell, C. W. Pugh, D.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. Pusey, P.
Grey, R. W. Rawdon, Col.
Guest, Sir J. Repton, G. W. J.
Hallyburton, Lord J. F. Reynolds, J.
Hamilton, Lord C. Ricardo, O.
Hardcastle, J. A. Rich, H.
Hawes, B. Romilly, J.
Hay, Lord J. Russell, Lord J.
Hayes, Sir E. Russell, F. C. H.
Hayter, W. G. Rutherfurd, A.
Headlam, T. E. Sandars, G.
Heathcoat, J. Scrope, G. P.
Heathcote, Sir W. Seymour, Sir H.
Henry, A. Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.
Heywood, J. Shelburne, Earl of
Hodges, T. L. Sheridan, R. B.
Hodges, T. T. Smith, right hon. R. V.
Hood, Sir A. Smith, J. A.
Hope, Sir J. Smith, M. T.
Howard, hon. C. W. G. Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.
Hutt, W. Spearman, H. J.
Inglis, Sir R. H. Stanley, hon. E. J.
Jermyn, Earl Stanton, W. H.
Jervis, Sir J. Staunton, Sir G. T.
Jocelyn, Visct. Strickland, Sir G.
Johnstone, Sir J. Thicknesse, R. A.
Jones, Sir W. Thompson, Col.
Jones, Capt. Thornely, T.
Keppel, hon. G. T. Tollemache, hon. F. J.
Kershaw, J. Tollemache, J.
Labouchere, rt. hon. H. Townshend, Capt.
Lascelles, hon. W. S. Traill, G.
Lewis, rt. hon. Sir T. F. Turner, G. J.
Lincoln, Earl of Tynte, Col. C. J. K.
Lindsay, hon. Col. Vane, Lord H.
Littleton, hon. E. R. Verney, Sir H.
Macnamara, Maj. Vyse, R. H. R. H.
M'Cullagh, W. T. Ward, H. G.
M'Gregor, J. Watkins, Col.
M'Naghten, Sir E. Wawn, J. T.
M'Taggart, Sir J. Wellesley, Lord C.
Magan, W. H. West, F. R.
Mahon, The O'Gorman Westhead, J. P.
Maitland, T. Willcox, B. M.
Marshall, W. Williamson, Sir H.
Martin, J. Wilson, J.
Matheson, A. Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.
Matheson, Col. Wyvill, M.
Maule, rt. hon. F. Yorke, H. G. R.
Miles, P. W. S. TELLERS.
Milnes, R. M. Tufnell, H.
Monsell, W. Hill, Lord M.
List of the NOES.
Alcock, T. Knox, Col.
Alexander, N. Law, hon. C. E.
Anstey, T. C. Lockhart, A. E.
Bankes, G. Lushington, C.
Benbow, J. Mackenzie, W. F.
Bennet, P. Meagher, T.
Bentinck, Lord G. Masterman, J.
Berkeley, hon. G. F. Molesworth, Sir W.
Blandford, Marq. of Moore, G. H.
Blewett, R. J. Mowatt, F.
Bouverie, hon. E. P. Nugent, Sir P.
Bright, J. O'Connor, F.
Broadley, H. Osborne, R.
Bruce, C. L. C. Pearson, C.
Burroughes, H. N. Pilkington, J.
Castlereagh, Visct. Raphael, A.
Clifford, H. M. Roche, E. B.
Cobden, R. Salwey, Col.
Crawford, W. S. Scholefield, W.
Disraeli, B. Seymer, H. K.
Douro, Marq. of Shafto, R. J.
Drumlanrig, Visct. Sidney, Ald.
Duncan, G. Sotheron, T. H. S.
Dundas, D. Stafford, A.
Estcourt, J. B. B. Stansfield, W. R. C.
Ewart, W. Stuart, Lord D.
Fagan, W. Stuart, J.
Fergus, J. Sturt, H. G.
Fitzroy, hon. H. Sullivan, M.
Fuller, A. E. Tancred, H. W.
Greene, J. Thompson, G.
Gywn, H. Trelawny, J. S.
Hall, Sir B. Urquhart, D.
Herries, rt. hon. J. C. Wakley, T.
Hildyard, T. B. T. Walmsley, Sir J.
Hope, H. T. Williams, J.
Hornby, J. Wood, W. P.
Hudson, G. Wortley, rt. hon. J. S.
Ingestre, Visct.
Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H. TELLERS.
Ker, R. Baillie, H.
King, hon. P. J. L. Hume, J.